A public relations specialist testified today (March 2) in Michael Jackson's child molestation trial that a Jackson lawyer told her in the aftermath of a damaging documentary that the mother of the bo
A public relations specialist testified today (March 2) in Michael Jackson's child molestation trial that a Jackson lawyer told her in the aftermath of a damaging documentary that the mother of the boy involved in the case would be made to look like a "crack whore."
Ann Marie Kite, called to the stand as the prosecution focused on conspiracy allegations, testified about the Jackson camp's response to fallout from the Martin Bashir-produced documentary "Living With Michael Jackson," which aired Feb. 6, 2003, in ABC in the United States and triggered the investigation that led to the charges.
Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old cancer survivor at his Neverland ranch in 2003, giving him alcohol and conspiring to hold the boy's family captive.
Kite, known professionally as Ann Gabriel, said she became concerned on Feb. 13, 2003, when associates of the pop star told her that the family of the boy who would later accuse Jackson of molestation had left Neverland and been returned within 12 hours.
Kite said Jackson associate Marc Schaffel told her the boy and his family had left in the middle of the night but that later he told her: "The situation had been contained."
She said she was concerned about why the family had left and how the situation was resolved but couldn't get details. "The way that he answered by saying the situation had been contained made me very uncomfortable," Kite said.
She said she was fired after questioning a Jackson attorney, David LeGrand, about what had happened, and that LeGrand subsequently told her the boy's mother would no longer be a problem.
"He said that they no longer had to worry about [the mother] because they had her on tape and they were going to make her look like a crack whore," she testified. The conversation apparently referred to a videotaped statement the boys' family made on Feb. 19-20, 2003, in which they praised Jackson.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. raised questions about Kite's credentials and credibility. Kite acknowledged she dated LeGrand until about a week before she was hired and that her only previous celebrity client was a Las Vegas hypnotist who had appeared in infomercials.
Prosecutors called Kite to support allegation that Jackson and associates held the family against their will throughout February 2003 to force them to help in a public relations campaign to rehabilitate his image. Jackson's indictment names Schaffel as an unindicted coconspirator. Defense attorneys say the family was free to leave at any time.
Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville said he was allowing Kite's testimony only as it related to the motivations for her future actions and that her statements themselves did not address the truthfulness of the prosecution's allegations.
Earlier, under prosecution questioning, Kite mentioned child molestation allegations that the pop star faced in 1993 but which did not result in charges. The reference was made even though the judge has not yet ruled on whether prosecutors in the current case will be allowed to present evidence from 1993.
The prosecution had asked about other public relations problems Jackson faced in February 2003. Kite listed both the Bashir documentary and the leaking of information from the 1993 allegations to the Web site the Smoking Gun. Kite said the latter allegations involved inappropriate actions with a young boy.
Mesereau objected to questions about 1993, and the judge cautioned jurors that they were only to consider the testimony as it related to explaining Kite's motivations and not for the "truth of the matter." The jurors were asked during jury selection if they were aware of the 1993 allegations, although no details were discussed.
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